Ok, y’all know I love me a good writers conference. After I left a career in corporate sales to be a writer, I made attending writers conferences part of my ongoing education goal. I’ve attended at least one a year since 2012.
Well, this year something magical happened. I GOT INTO THE ERMA BOMBECK WRITERS WORKSHOP!
ERMA BOMBECK, FOLKS! ONE OF THE FOREMOTHERS OF FUNNY!
The Erma conference happens every two years, and the last two times I tried to get in, it sold out. No joke, this conference sells out faster every year, like in four hours or less.
So this year, I marked my calendar, I had my morning off, I was holding my credit card in hand with my laptop and my phone ready to GO!
And then, I flew to Dayton, Ohio and proudly wore my newbie sticker that said “Erma Virgin”. Yes, that is what they gave us. Be still my humor-loving, former Catholic heart.
I’ve been to some stellar conferences and always left inspired, but there was energy like you can’t imagine at this conference. (In fact, the organizers said this was the highest rated conference to date!) I got my schedule, planned out where I was going to go, and then immediately threw that out the window, tried something new, made great friends, and gave it all my best!
ERMAgawd, here’s why you should go!
Taking risks leads to opportunities and learning lessons.
You all know I like to say yes to new experiences, but being the newbie here, I was admittedly nervous.
A fair amount of the workshop focused on stand up comedy with the hilarious Wendy Liebman. Wendy’s been a stand up comedian for over 30 years. She’s performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, and been a finalist on America’s Got Talent.
It seemed like everyone was talking about the stand up classes. Everyone I met was trying stand up or working on their bits. But I had no intention of going. I’m not a stand up, so that’s not for me.
You guys all know I went, right? LOL
I had planned what workshops I was going to attend the night before they started, and that was the last time I looked at that list. If the stand up classes were getting all the buzz, then I decided to go and see what I could learn from them. After all, I like working in different formats because it teaches you new things about your writing.
After the first class listening to people tell jokes, my gears just started rolling and I spent that night coming up with some material. So the next day, I got up with a bunch of other brave, risk-taking people and did a minute of stand up. And I got laughs! Good ones! That is a very good feeling. One that I’m interested and willing to try again! All because of a risk.
A risk, and the ever delightful and supportive Wendy Liebman, who just happened to be on the same flight to Chicago as me, and who gave me wonderful feedback and encouragement while sitting at our departure gate despite the fact that it wasn’t even 6am yet. Bless you, you’re so kind and charming, and I’m eternally grateful.
Find the Funny
The other classes I attended were about finding the funny, whether it’s using it to add heart or get through hard times. Or even just on Twitter.
One of my favorite workshops was with Lauretta Hannon, author of The Cracker Queen. She had a lot of great tips on being comfortable with writing your story, even the dark parts, while being ok with yourself in the process. I can’t wait to read her book after she shared some examples of how to use humor to write about the tough stuff, and also where to let the dark moments speak for themselves, because we know not everything we go through will be funny.
Both Lauretta and T. Faye Griffin, another presenter, reiterated that making people laugh is a gift. Some of the best writers out there have the ability to make you feel something or learn something, but do so through humor, and that is a very special skill.
It’s kind of mesmerizing to me how many different ways there are to be funny. You can do stand up, you can tell a story, you can caption a photo, you can come up with a punchy headline, you can tweet just to name a few. If there was one takeaway from this conference, it is that “funny” is all around us, and we have the skill to shape it.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity. The crowd at Erma is one of the most supportive I’ve ever seen, which is appreciated because I took one other risk while I was at the conference and signed up for Pitchapalooza, “the American Idol of books”.
In a room of roughly 100 people, I put my name in a hat that probably had at least 60 of those people’s names in it. Only 12 were chosen and I was one of them. I got to pitch my book for one minute to a panel of judges and get feedback on my pitch.
I swear I thought the audience would hear my heart beating through the microphone, but I had practiced my pitch beforehand and gave it my all. I didn’t win the contest. (Way to go, Liz Dubelman, who did win! She was the first person to say hi to me at the conference, so I have a soft spot for her as a human being. Thanks!) I got really positive feedback and simple tweaks to improve my pitch, and was even complimented on my performance! And that’s a win in my book!
So there you have it, taking risks and finding the funny is what Erma is all about. I’m so glad I could attend and so grateful to the conference organizers, presenters, the keynotes (btw, I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed all the female keynotes got standing ovations), and my fellow attendees. I’m still riding the highs and energized by all of you!
What are you currently learning about your writing right now?
What’s inspiring you?
Welcome to the 83rd Academy Awards! If you missed the second most watched television event of the year, here are the highlights!
The day went by very quickly, as did my whole weekend. Amidst the rushed grocery shopping, dish cleaning, counter wiping, gift assembling, and cooking *whew* I was able to completely restart my story, beginning the book in a totally different place and adding more dialogue. Woohoo! I read the first page to my mom and best friend and asked for feedback on whether or not it hooked them. Generally, they both really liked it, but did give me one place I could embellish the relationship between characters more intensely and that was appreciated. So that gives me exactly one hour after work tonight to madly edit the first page, print it out, and mail it in to the writing contest at the Writers Institute conference I’ll be attending in April. Nothing like a little deadline madness to tell your procrastination pixies to buzz off! If they’re flying around your work space, please take time to check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog, she has helped me immensely with realistic goal setting, hooking your reader, and gives FREE advice on what to watch for in your story that may make an editor pass on your project.
Since I’m still in a celebrating mood from my Oscar party, “Cheers to Writing Weekends!” that also involve your BFF making asparagus soup, squash risotto with gorgonzola, and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and your BF helping chop blocks of cheese and doing the dishes! Yay!
I actually had some time to get back into reading blogs by you wonderful fellow writers! Here are my favorites from the past week!
Jillian sparked up a great debate on the mash-up of classic literature with sci-fi themes. What do you think about this new wave of publications? Check out her post, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer Seriously?
Discovered through Freshly Pressed, C C Lester, had a great post on the times she argued over whether she was a writer, or an author, or neither at all. In the end, it was having a loyal reader that meant the most to her, but she’s certainly struck a chord with many of us so check out her post, So am I an Author Yet?
Wendy Matheson just kicked off Women’s History Month for me in her entertaining post, Strength, Thy Name is Woman! It details many inventions that are often accredited to men, but were actually made by women.
For your laughing pleasure, The Hack Novelist writes a letter to the guy holding a conference call in a crowded Starbucks cafe’. I think he eloquently pens what we would all be thinking. 8 Pages and the Conference Call
I’ve also been following the very funny Mark, from Mark My Words as he battles the unemployment offices, takes on the world of freelance writing, and has to fire his maid and buy clothes at a second hand store. Well… you’ll see. Champagne Wishes on a Sparkling Water Budget
Happy writing and reading, friends! Tell me about your weekends! What writing goals did you accomplish? If you found some great blogs this week, what are they? I’d love to cheer you on and check out the posts you love!